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Chris Moorman Finally Earns First Major Live Tournament Title

Moorman Wins WPT L.A. Poker Classic Main Event For $1,032,309

by Julio Rodriguez |  Published: Apr 16, 2014

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The last time Chris Moorman graced the cover of Card Player Magazine was in February of 2012. At the time, he was being touted as the best overall tournament player in the game for becoming the first to ever finish in the top 10 of both the Player of the Year and Online Player of the Year race in the same campaign.

In the time since, the Southend, UK native has continued to dominate online poker tournaments, and, in September of 2013, he became the first player to cross the $10 million mark in lifetime online winnings. His nearest competitor was more than $3 million behind.

The only thing missing from Moorman’s poker resume was a major live tournament victory. The 28 year old had his fair share of success, finishing second in the 2011 World Series of Poker Europe main event for $1,068,690 and making three final tables at the summer series for a combined $1,032,309. He’d even made final tables at the Aussie Millions and on the European Poker Tour, but it was the elusive win that had escaped him.

In 2012, Moorman insisted that he wasn’t sweating all of the close calls. “I’m getting used to finishing second,” he said, half jokingly. “That’s been extremely frustrating for me, but at the same time, I try to keep things in perspective. Poker isn’t like tennis, in that you have a limited shelf life. It’s not like I’ve lost in the finals at Wimbledon, because I plan to keep playing for the next five decades or so, which will give me many more opportunities. It’s just a matter of time, really.”

It turns out that he didn’t have to wait that long. In early March of this year, Moorman topped a field of 534 players in the $10,000 buy-in World Poker Tour L.A. Poker Classic main event, getting the trophy, the $1,015,460 first-place prize, and the relief of removing the monkey from his back.

The Brit now has more than $3.9 million in live tournament earnings and currently sits in the top five of the Card Player Player of the Year race. We caught up with Moorman during his tour of California following his big win to discuss the tournament, his career and what he thinks of the poker industry as a whole.

Julio Rodriguez: In February of 2014, you had a sick run online, with more than 200 cashes and $300,000 in winnings. How do you stay on top of your game amidst so much volume and variance?

Chris Moorman: When I plan on putting in a month of solid grinding, I try to separate my play into individual sessions. Obviously it’s impossible to not let your recent results affect your mood or confidence in the future, but I try to remove that from my play as much as possible. I don’t believe that just because I’m on a winning streak it will continue the next time I play, and likewise, I believe that coming out of a downswing can happen at any point as long as you maintain your belief and focus levels.

JR: When you are playing online, what is your daily routine, volume and schedule?

CM: My online play has changed a lot over the years. When I first began playing poker I would often play six or seven days a week and my life was consumed with the game. I would keep my sessions on the shorter side though because playing poker so often meant that I couldn’t keep my focus as high for long periods of time. Nowadays, I have a lot more balance outside of poker and would say I play four times a week on average. However, I have still been able to maintain the same kind of volume due to greater focus, meaning when I do play I can play longer sessions. I prefer to avoid grinding online in Europe now because the hours required to play there are very unsociable and are physically draining.

JR: What did you have to work on most to make the transition from online to live tournaments? What are you most proud of in regards to your ability to be a dominating force at both disciplines?

CM: It took me a while to transition my game fully from online poker to live poker. I think one of the main differences between the two is that in live poker a much greater focus should be placed on postflop decisions, especially on turns and rivers compared to online tournaments which are predominantly preflop based. This is because the stacks are much deeper so there is more room to play down the streets. Therefore, in live poker, it is essential to be comfortable playing postflop in order to have a lot of success. The other main difference between the two is in the different mental approach you need in order to be successful. In live poker, patience is so key. For example in the LAPC main event I played for six days for around eight hours a day. In that time, on average, I only played 25 hands an hour, so there is a lot of time for your mind to wander and think about other things. Also, if you make a mistake or become tilted live, it is very hard to get it out of your mind and get yourself back on track.

JR: How do you keep focused on a single event, such as the L.A. Poker Classic, which can take place over the course of time usually devoted to 100 different online tournaments?

CM: It is really hard and something you are never going to do perfectly. Obviously it varies from tourney to tourney just how long the days are. The LAPC main event was actually easier to focus on than some other live tournaments because there were no dinner breaks. Dinner breaks are often hard to deal with because you have to regain your focus after taking a significant break and may end up eating too much food, causing you to be tired for the rest of the day. When you know how many levels you are playing each day, and what time the tournament is going to start and finish with a set structure, it is much more manageable.

JR: What are some of the biggest mistakes you see tournament players make on a regular basis?

CM: There are several mistakes I regularly see people making at the tables. One of the biggest is people calling the flop too wide versus good players out of position when their hands are unlikely to improve. An example of this would be defending the big blind with a hand like pocket fours versus an under-the-gun (UTG) raise and then check/calling a 9-6-6 rainbow flop. Although it is likely you have the best hand on the flop with fours, it is very hard for you to showdown your hand versus a good, aggressive player.

Most of the time, you will be facing at least one or two more bets on potential overcards where you will just be put in a guessing situation. Also, there is the added negative of the board potentially counterfeiting your two pair. In these situations, I prefer to purely set-mine these small pairs out of position versus relatively strong ranges. Other mistakes I see tournament players making a lot are trying to call too many raises with speculative hands off short stacks and opening too wide with small sizing from the small blind versus good opponents in the big blind.

JR: Can you talk about what it takes to have a strong endgame in poker, how you developed yours, and what beginning players should be looking for when deep in live and online events?

CM: My endgame is one of the strongest parts of my game. All of the money in multitable tournaments is in the top three spots, so it is essential to be good at closing out tournaments in order to maximize your profits. One of the main ways in which I have developed my endgame is just through practice and the experience of being at hundreds of final tables over the years. One example of something I try to do is to put a lot of pressure on people I cover when there is a short stack present at the table, because they will be looking to outlast them and not do anything too rash to combat your aggressiveness. Also, once you get shorthanded, you have to remember that hand strength increases and it really pays to be aggressive and play for the win.

JR: In 2012, the last time Card Player profiled you extensively, you were the best all around player, online and live for the year. How do you think you and poker have changed since that time?

CM: I think poker as a game is constantly evolving and becoming tougher at all levels and it is important to adapt your game in order to stay at the top. My game over the past few years has changed a lot. I try to keep most of my hand histories from old online tournaments saved so that I can watch them and go over key spots at a later date. It is crazy to think that some of the stuff I regularly did just a couple of years ago is now considered bad or wrong. Back in 2012, I relied heavily on preflop aggression, whereas now I think I have a much stronger all around game.

JR: Do you still think it is possible to enter poker now, after the first online poker boom, and make a profitable career out of it?

CM: Obviously the games are much tougher now than they were when I first started playing poker, however, I still think it’s possible to enter poker now and turn it into a profitable career. As long as you have the right mindset and a good work ethic I think the sky is the limit in terms of poker. Although a natural ability at the game will aid someone attempting to play poker seriously, I don’t think it is essential. I feel like my rise to the top has been predominantly because of my work ethic rather than anything else.

JR: Speaking of a career, what else do you want to get out of and achieve in poker? Do you want this to be a long-term job or do you have aspirations to take your talent into another field?

CM: For some people poker is a means to an end but for me that’s not the case. I play poker for the love of the game. As long as poker is still as fun and exciting to me I see myself playing for a long time. If that changes, I’d like to find something that I have a similar passion for, although at this time I’m not sure what that would be.

JR: You are working on a book, due out later this year. What is Moorman’s Book of Poker going to teach the world about poker? What will readers learn that they have not read about in other strategy books?

CM: I ran a hand history promotion a few months ago where I reviewed people’s hands and it was a huge success. This inspired me to write my own book in this format which analyzes a mid-stakes player’s hands and offers my opinion about what he did correctly and where he can improve and think about different aspects of the game. This is something that has never been done before and I believe it will aid the reader in reaching the next level of the game and thinking about it in a way they hadn’t before.

JR: What poker players impress you the most and for what reasons?

CM: Vanessa Selbst is someone who impresses me a ton. I haven’t had the opportunity to speak a ton of strategy with her, but whenever I have it has been really eye opening to me. I feel like I consider most of the possible lines when thinking about hands, but I was talking to her recently in Napa after my WPT win about specific spots and she suggested a couple of things I would never have really considered before. Also, the British players are such an impressive group of players due to the level of support that we are able to show for each other even though poker is very much an individual’s game.

JR: You’ve achieved a lot of success in your career so far. Titles, accolades, and you are considered by many to be the best online poker player in the world. Do you care more about the prestige of winning or these days, is it all about winning as much money as possible?

CM: A lot of people are all about the money in poker but I’m quite the opposite in that I’m more interested in accomplishments, accolades, titles and creating a legacy for myself. I’m motivated by trying to constantly improve and be the best that I can be. Obviously the money is still important, but I’m of the belief that if you play your best and constantly work on your game the money will take care of itself. Maybe when I finally learn to drive I might be more concerned with what first place pays and what new car I can now get, but until then money really isn’t my main focus. ♠